Banks plays, stays quiet about MRSA
Bucs rookie CB Johnthan Banks, cleared by a specialist to play Sunday despite a MRSA infection, started but struggled in the 31-20 loss to the Eagles, getting beaten on the go-ahead 47-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
"He's a big part of the game plan for us. He's the starting right corner," CB Darrelle Revis said. "He had to go through a process with his infection, had to go through a bunch of steps, but we were excited for him to be out here and play."
Banks spoke briefly to reporters, saying initially that he didn't want to take any questions about MRSA, then leaving to take a shower. He did not return for questions. Banks finished with five tackles, tied for third-most on the Bucs. G Carl Nicks, who suffered a recurrence of MRSA in his injured left foot last week, was inactive.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he spoke with Dr. Deverick Anderson, a specialist with Duke's Infection Control Outreach Network who cleared Banks to play, and he said that helped him and his players be more comfortable with the situation.
"He gave us the whole rundown of it and where the league was with it, and how he felt about it, and I think we felt comfortable in his answers, in terms of how he told us everything worked out," Kelly said. "So we deferred to them, but I think he was very helpful in terms of talking to … our doctors and players that had questions to get with our doctors and have everything explained to them."
Bucs secondary suddenly develops major leaks
In the Bucs' first four games, the secondary had been a relative strength, allowing just one pass play longer than 31 yards.
Against the prolific Eagles offense, that toughness against the big play disappeared. Tampa Bay gave up four pass plays of 36 yards or longer, including both second-half touchdowns.
"We just gave up four explosive plays. We haven't done that," coach Greg Schiano said. "Balls haven't gone over our head in the first four games, and they did today. … It kind of changed the whole complexion."
There were ominous signs from the start, as Eagles RB LeSean McCoy took a screen pass 44 yards on the opening play, a big chunk of an 85-yard touchdown drive. The Bucs led 17-14 in the third quarter until QB Nick Foles connected with WR Riley Cooper for a 47-yard touchdown and the lead.
The Bucs trailed 21-20 in the fourth quarter when they gave up 81 yards on back-to-back plays, as Cooper got away from a tackle for a 44-yard gain, then Foles found DeSean Jackson open in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown.
"Looking back, just looking in the mirror, we missed some tackles that caused big plays. That was one of the keys: No explosive plays," S Dashon Goldson said. "But you know this is an explosive football team with the running game and with the passing game and we didn't execute on that. We've just got to buckle down."
The Eagles' dynamic WR duo of DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper each put together milestone games. Cooper, a former Clearwater Central Catholic and Florida Gators star, had four catches for a career-high 120 yards, including a touchdown. The fourth-year pro had eight catches for 93 yards in the first five games combined. Cooper beat Bucs rookie CB Johnthan Banks on a go route down the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, putting the Eagles up for good at 21-17. In the fourth quarter, Cooper turned a hitch route into a 44-yard gain, breaking a tackle from Banks. Cooper planned to give his touchdown ball to his mom, one of many family and friends in the stands. "It means a lot to come back here," Cooper said. "I grew up going to these games, watching Derrick Brooks and Mike Alstott, all those guys. It's cool to come back and actually play a good game."
Jackson, 26, is a two-time Pro Bowl player and one of the league's most dynamic players, but Sunday marked the first time he had two touchdown catches in a game. On the first, in the second quarter, Jackson beat CB Darrelle Revis on a crossing route in the back of the end zone. "I don't know if he was depending on a safety to be there or not, but whatever the case may be, he still has a job to do which is not to let me score, and I scored," Jackson said. Jackson sealed the game with a 36-yard touchdown catch five minutes into the fourth, starting in the slot and getting behind two safeties. "DeSean has that gear that kicks in when (Nick Foles) throws it. I think some people were like, 'Where's it going?' '' Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "And all of a sudden, DeSean comes out of nowhere.''
. WR Vincent Jackson entered Sunday's game as the Bucs' leading receiver, but he hadn't been particularly efficient, with just 17 catches out of the 41 passes listed as being thrown his way.
On Sunday, he raised that average considerably, finishing with nine catches — his most in 21 games in Tampa Bay — for 114 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. Jackson was frustrated about the loss, but he found consolation in the connection he's building with rookie QB Mike Glennon.
"He throws a great ball, no matter what the ball is. Deep outs, ins, crosses, hitting tight ends across the middle. He puts the ball in position where guys can catch it. That's unique," said Jackson, who had 14 passes thrown his way. "It's why quarterbacks play a long time in this league."
Jackson had only one other multitouchdown game with the Bucs, last season against the Chiefs, and Sunday's two touchdowns were very different — a 24-yard post pattern where he broke loose up the middle, then a 1-yard fade where Glennon lobbed a pass that Jackson caught just inside the sideline.
The 6-foot-5 receiver said he liked the confidence that coaches showed in throwing him such a pass in single coverage.
"We like our matchups. We have the utmost confidence (there) that we're going to win. If we don't come down with it, hopefully the other guy doesn't come down with it," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to help Mike be successful."
Wright bolsters weakened TE position
. On five third-down situations, QB Mike Glennon threw to rookie TE Tim Wright. Four of those times, Wright made a catch for a first down.
Injuries to tight ends Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree have given the Bucs some trouble at the position this season. On Sunday, those misfortunes translated to Wright's big gain.
Wright, who came to Tampa from Rutgers as a free agent, had seven receptions for 91 yards. He didn't play in the first two games, entering Sunday with six receptions for 47 yards.
"I had to step up and do what I have to do," Wright said. "I had to use my ability, what I came here for, and go out there and execute my job."
Extra lineman beefs up run game
. Hoping to help their run game with a lack of healthy blocking tight ends, the Bucs used 312-pound T Jamon Meredith on several plays as a sixth lineman during Sunday's loss.
"We're a little banged up at tight end, so I was able to try to step in and fill the void," said Meredith, a fifth-year pro from South Carolina who started 12 games last year when injuries depleted the line. "I'm willing to do whatever I can. I did all right, but I've got a lot to improve on. I'm just happy I could step in and help out."
Bucs RB Doug Martin, who rushed for 67 yards on 16 carries, said the offensive line played well, and he was happy to see an extra lineman to help clear a path for him.
"Meredith, he was on the line last year, replaced (Carl) Nicks and did an awesome job," Martin said. "To have him as another blocker is definitely helping the running game."
Another regular from last season, backup C Ted Larsen, filled in at left guard for Nicks, who missed the game after being diagnosed with a recurrence of a MRSA staph infection in his left foot.
Fast from the start
. On the first play from scrimmage, Nick Foles threw a 44-yard pass to LeSean McCoy, a mere glimpse of what the fast-paced Eagles would do all game long. Six plays later, the Eagles were in the end zone.
It happened in a flash — exactly what DT Gerald McCoy expected to see from the no-huddle attack.
"It was the execution, it wasn't the pace," he said. "They didn't do nothing surprising; they were beating us on screens. Every team runs screens."
By the end of the game, the Bucs had the advantage in time of possession by more than seven minutes. The Eagles, who ran an NFL-record 53 plays in the first half of their season opener, are trained to get the job done quickly.
Gerald McCoy said that it's hard to prepare for an offense like that because it's impossible to simulate, he said; you don't get a taste until you see the real thing. LeSean McCoy frustrated the Bucs all afternoon. The running back amassed 171 yards, his second highest total of the season.
It took the Eagles just three plays to go 80 yards on their final touchdown drive. Defending against a fast-paced offense might have been a learning experience for his unit, but Gerald McCoy insists it's too late for lessons.
"There's no excuses, it's just time to get it done, it's as simple as that," he said. "We just kind of let it go on defense."
The Eagles threw a lot at Bucs rookie QB Mike Glennon, and were impressed with how he handled it. Glennon was 26-for-43 for 273 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. "Mike did a really nice job," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "He's very accurate. A couple times we were draped on the receivers on third down and he put the ball only in the spot where his receiver could catch it. For a rookie quarterback in his second NFL start, I was really, really impressed with Mike." CB Bradley Fletcher picked off Glennon in the third quarter, but Glennon kept the Bucs in the game, and DE Fletcher Cox pointed out he didn't panic. "He's a good player," Eagles LB Connor Barwin said. "Real solid. He's got good pocket awareness, made all the throws. He had one bad throw, the interception, but other than that, for a rookie, he was pretty composed."
Bucs rookie QB Mike Glennon took a step forward in his second NFL start, throwing for 273 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Philadelphia.
"I felt more comfortable. It kind of reminded me of college, when I made a jump from the first game to the second game," the former N.C. State quarterback said. "You're going to continue to grow. There's more and more I can take away from these games … I think I will continue to improve as the season progresses."
Glennon found a particular connection with WR Vincent Jackson, who had nine catches for 114 yards and both touchdowns, including a fade from the 1-yard line before halftime.
"We have a young guy at QB doing a great job," Jackson said. "Very impressive the way he's handling the ballgame, and he's only going to get better. Making great reads, he stands in there with great confidence. He's going to be a great leader."
Glennon did that without the Bucs' No. 2 receiver, as Mike Williams was inactive after being limited in practice with a hamstring injury. TE Tim Wright (seven catches for 91 yards) and WR Chris Owusu (three for 28) each had more catches and yards than they entered the game with in their NFL careers.
Glennon had a 16-yard run on the second touchdown drive. In four years at N.C. State, his longest carry was for 15 yards.
"I thought he played well," coach Greg Schiano said. "(There were) a couple of balls he'd like back. … I thought he did a lot of good things. That scramble was a big play there."